If Big Pharma corporations succeed in inserting their proposed medicines rules into NAFTA, we will get locked into the bad policies that have made high U.S. medicine prices an outrage and export these life-threatening rules to Canada and Mexico.

Big pharmaceutical companies have outlined their NAFTA renegotiation demands in official submissions to the U.S. government. They want added to NAFTA a whole raft of extreme new powers and privileges to raise prices that the U.S. government had forced into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Those TPP rules received widespread criticism — from the Vatican to Doctors Without Borders to The Economist magazine — for undermining consumers’ access to affordable medicines. And they were fiercely resisted by negotiators from other TPP countries. The fight for access to medicines and against Pharma greed ultimately dragged out the TPP negotiation for years. After the TPP could not obtain majority support in Congress, the other TPP countries suspended some of the most extreme U.S.-demanded provisions. But the NAFTA renegotiations could revive these dangerous terms that would lock in high prices here and raise prices in Mexico and Canada.

The Big Pharma wish list for NAFTA includes:

  • Mandating 12-year “exclusivity” monopolies for biologic drugs used to treat cancer, delaying access to cheaper generics.
  • Limiting the ability of government health programs (like U.S. Medicare and Canada’s drug pricing system) to negotiate for lower medicine prices.
  • “Evergreening” patents, allowing pharma companies to get extended monopoly rights for old drugs through minor tweaks.
  • And extending monopoly patent terms beyond 20 years if regulatory agencies take longer to review a drug than Big Pharma thinks is reasonable.

Already, one in five people in the United States fail to fill prescriptions due to cost. But all these demands boil down to more brand-name monopolies for Big Pharma, restricted access to cheaper generics, and higher prices for medicines.

If enacted, these NAFTA rules would not be alterable without consensus by all signatories. Any renegotiated NAFTA would set the parameters to which the current and future Congresses, U.S. state legislatures and NAFTA governments would be constrained with respect to policies for reducing medicine prices and protecting public health.

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